How to Expand Your Toddler’s Language

Guest Authored By Andrea Levy, MS, CCC-SLP

The toddler years are an important time for language development. Your child is learning new vocabulary words every single day. It is important to provide your child with a language-rich environment and opportunities to expand their language. Here are some strategies commonly used by speech-language pathologists that parents can use at home to expand their toddler’s language:  

  • Narrate your actions (Self-talk): Talk about what you are doing, seeing, and hearing to provide your child with a language-rich environment. For example, “I’m making the bed. I am pulling the covers up. Now I will fluff the pillows. All done.”  
  • Narrate your toddler’s actions (Parallel Talk): Talk about what your toddler is doing, seeing, and hearing to provide them with a language-rich environment. For example, “I see the cow. The cow is going in the barn. Moo!” 
  • Choices: Give your child choices, such as, “Do you want to play with animals or cars?” Encourage them to point to their choice and label the item.  
  • Expand on your toddler’s utterances: Add words to your child’s phrases and model a grammatically correct sentence. For example, if your child says, “big dog,” you can say, “Yes, I see a big, brown dog.”  
  • Avoid asking too many questions: It feels natural to ask your child a lot of questions during play, such as, “What color is the block” or “Where is the cow?” However, it is important to balance questions with comments to provide your child with a model of both types of sentence structures.  
  • Fill-in-the-blank songs/books: Encourage your child to fill-in-the-blanks to repetitive songs and books. For example, you sing, “Old MacDonald had a farm e-i-e-i-” and encourage your child to fill in “o.” This also works for repetitive books, such as, “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” 
  • Repeatedly use vocabulary words: Introduce new vocabulary words by repeatedly using them during play with your child. For example, to teach the word “up” with blocks say, “Up, up, up. We are building the blocks up. Oh no! The blocks fell. Let’s build the blocks up again.”  

If you are concerned about your child’s language development, one of our speech-language pathologists would be happy to talk with you.